Metals show to set region’s young minds alight

August 25, 2015

Murdoch is inspiring students to study metallurgy.Murdoch University’s roaming metallurgists are visiting the Great Southern region this week to fire up high school students about the magic of metals.

Graeme Thompson and Ken Seymour from Murdoch’s School of Engineering and Information Technology are in the region for three days, visiting St Joseph’s College, Great Southern Grammar, North Albany SHS, Albany SHS, Bethel School and Mount Barker Community College.

“The students will be treated to an enthralling session, as some of these experiments have quite a sparkle to them,” said Mr Thompson, a current PhD student.

“We will show them metal reactions in flames that produce coloured sparks, like those used in fireworks, and we also will demonstrate how iron oxide and aluminium can react to create molten iron ore at 2500 degrees.”

“The molten iron ore produced in the reaction can be used to fuse railroad tracks together, so it’s a good demonstration of chemistry’s power and its application.”

Students will try their hand at being true metallurgists, with the chance to extract copper metal from ore using acid, steel wool and electricity.

The Mount Barker/Albany visit is part of Murdoch University’s ongoing ‘Extracting Talent for Metallurgy’ program, which travels around Western Australia to inspire students to take an interest in mining industry careers.

The program has been funded for $100,000 over five years by Rio Tinto with support from Murdoch University, which Mr Thompson sees as a sound investment for students and the nation.

“Minerals and energy are an important part of Australian life, making up roughly 50 per cent of the nation’s export income. In order to keep the industry running effectively, we need to add 60 to 100 new extractive metallurgists each year even when the industry is not in a boom,” Mr Thompson said.

“At the moment, Australian universities are graduating about 50, so the math is pretty simple. We want students to see mineral extraction as an exciting, and well compensated career option.

“A graduate can usually earn at around $80,000 in their first year and can eventually end up, over time, becoming the manager of the refinery or better. Many graduates also spend some time during their career working overseas.”

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